Router Table #8: Insert an Insert an Insert an Insert an....

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Blog entry by PurpLev posted 01-11-2010 01:08 AM 13006 reads 7 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Drawers Under the Weather Part 8 of Router Table series Part 9: Drawers, Bits, and a little Playtime »

OK. I caved in and bought an Incra Insert for the router table after they posted it back in stock. It’s the 3/8” phenolic plate that is their ‘old’ design. the opening for the router is 3 3/8” as opposed to the new Aluminum plate which are 3 5/8”. also it’s not as mechanical capable as the aluminum plates, but for $35 it’s within my budget. and still a very good plate. what I really like about the Incras is their MagnaLock plate inserts which snaps into place with magnets and is toolless – no need for a screwdriver, or a handle to lock/unlock the inserts in place.

I definitely didn’t want to mess up the phenolic top (of the table) so I decided to make a test run on a board of MDF and if I get good results – to use that MDF as a template and follow that opening over the phenolic top. Actually, it’s not that I didn’t want to mess up the phenolic (cause I slightly did) – what I didn’t want is to mess up the phenolic top beyond salvation… thats what I meant.

And so, I began by placing the phenolic plate over a board of 3/4” MDF. I then ripped 4” stips of 3/4” plywood from the same board so that I’ll have even thickness for my “pre” template. I pre drilled the strips and coutersunk those holes to make sure the screws are below surface and won’t interfere with my router:

Pre Template using plywood

I cross cut those stips at 5 degrees to make sure I get a nice tight fit around the router plate (not trying to make a perfect 90 degree between the strips – just making sure they are all snug against the plate):

Pre Template using plywood

For the next step I was a bit stumbled for a while, and researched many places. in order to make the corners nice and round and match the router plate, some places recommend using a 1-1/2” drill bit (shopnotes) while others recommend using a 3/4” router template bit (benchdog). I never installed a router plate before, so I had no idea what would work the best so I bought a 3/4” router bit (a good bit to have in the arsenal regardless of this project) and had my 1-1/2” holesaw at hand. trying to compare between the 2 and the radius of the router plate, It looked like the router bit radius was too small, while the holesaw was just perfect. so, I drilled the 4 corners with the holesaw. then, using the 3/4” template bit, I followed the plywood makeshift template to cut through the MDF board.

my work was a bit sloppy, and I lost alignment of the router a couple of times which messed up the MDF AND the plywood strips in a few places. so I left things as is. and started it all over again with new material. If I’m going to screw anything up – I don’t want it to be the template itself :)

round to was much better. this time around I also screwed a block in the middle so that the router will have support on both sides of it’s base. this was great. but on one corner I pulled to hard trying to run through it, and the router jumped and notched the template – not too bad. not bad enough that I wanted to start over again (and I didn’t have any more materials either).

after completing the cutout, I fit the template in – it was SNUG. It required some rasping of the corners, and straight lines in order to fit the insert. and it’s TIGHT. maybe too tight… but I can always sand/shape it open wider if I feel it’s a problem. Going the other way around would be impossible (at least as far as I’ve been told).

I then took the template, and placed it over the original board of MDF that I screwed up, and used the template to cut open an opening for the router plate. I figured I might as well test how the template delivers. in the picture you can see the top hole which was the first attempt for the template, and the lower hole which was made by the 2nd attempt template as it’s holding the plate:

MDF Template

once I had that dialed in. I setup the template over the phenolic top:

Template over phenolic

To get the depth of cut, I placed the Incra plate on top of my template, placed the router on top of that, and plunged (router unplugged) until the bit hit the table top. then set a depth stop for that setting. sorry I didn’t take a picture, but I think shopnotes has an illustration of this in their “6 steps to install a router plate”. what this does is sets the depth of cut for the template AND the router place, which means it’ll cut exactly the thickness of the router plate below the template. I did find that this made the cut about 1/64” too shallow, and had to micro adjust the depth of cut to allow the plate to sit just slightly below the table top (so that I can shim it precisely level with the table top).

I then followed it with the 3/4” template bit on the router. this created a 3/4” lip all around for the plate to sit on. I wanted to have a wider lip than what I’ve seen on commercial tops (1/2”?) and the 3/4” seemed like a balanced size, large enough, but not overly large that it’ll be in the way of the router.

to cut off the center I was a bit stumped again. I don’t have a jigsaw. and didn’t really want to route all that phenolic away (it’s messy , very messy, and its hard hard hard on the bits) so I used a circular saw and plunged my way down through the phenolic, and following a straight edge as much as I could from both sides. the line doesn’t have to be perfect as this is unseen, I just needed to take that center out. once I had the 4 edges cut through, I used a drill bit to release the corners and was left with this:

Insert Installed in phenolic top

all in all, I was glad how the cutoff part came. I did slip with the circ saw beyond my end point, and notched the top part of the top. not a deal breaker, but would have been nicer if I didn’t have that cut notch there.

I installed the router in the plate, and put it in. I need to tilt the router as I put it into the opening, but I think that’s a usual thing with larger routers (this one is rather large). it sits very nicely, and extends through the table to change bits:

Pre Template using plywood

the first thing that I checked for which I was curious for all along was how convenient the controls on the router would be (on/off button, and height adjustment). I must say – with the router installed diagonally over the plate, reaching for both the power button, and for the height control is very very convenient – I was very positively surprised with this as I expected this part to be somewhat disappointing.

so far, so good. I’m glad how this came out, and I’m even more glad to be DONE with this phenolic hell (at least for now).


-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

15 comments so far

View ellen35's profile


2749 posts in 4553 days

#1 posted 01-11-2010 01:12 AM

This is looking really really good!
That top is something else!

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2545 posts in 5078 days

#2 posted 01-11-2010 01:14 AM

View MarkwithaK's profile


370 posts in 4298 days

#3 posted 01-11-2010 01:16 AM

Nice job.

-- If at first you don't succeed then maybe skydiving isn't for you.

View Dale J Struhar Sr's profile

Dale J Struhar Sr

520 posts in 4251 days

#4 posted 01-11-2010 01:32 AM

Very nice looking table big also.

-- Dale, Ohio

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4502 days

#5 posted 01-11-2010 03:05 AM

Nice work! I have never done this, and have always feared it, and it seems that’s justified. It’s not an easy task, but you got through it, and it came out great.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 4409 days

#6 posted 01-11-2010 03:37 AM

very good job. looks like a tight fit.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 4848 days

#7 posted 01-11-2010 05:27 AM

awesome tutorial. i’m dreaming of doing this some day, but I don’t think its going to happen. so many space constraints.

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4769 days

#8 posted 01-11-2010 06:26 AM

Thanks guys,

I must say – for putting 2 parts together this is ALOT of work. but because this is considered ‘machinery’ you don’t really want to mess it up. do it once and do it right.

HokieMojo – I know what you mean, this router table was in the plans for a long long long long time (2007). was finally now able to make space for it in the TS outfeed space. creative thinking might find you the space for it – although some places (like my previous house) just doesn’t have that extra space. in which case there’s always the breakdown/mobile table solution.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3864 posts in 4558 days

#9 posted 01-11-2010 04:48 PM

It’s gonna bee good. You’re right, that magnetic insert thingy will be handy. Mine has little machine screws. You tend not to change it to the correct size that way when you should.

With this table and your new triton router you should be all set to do some great things.

After I made my router table I did some raised panel cabinet doors. The first time it’s a daunting experience but an extremely rewarding one if you’ve never done it before. Not to mention the set of three router bits to do it is about $160! But those bits could make a bunch of nice stuff.

Have you made your fence yet? Looking at your table without slots it looks like you might not have. I’m currently rebuilding mine. My mistake was not having a very wide boxed in area for the chip collection. When routing with a fence with the grain the chips often come off as long splinters. without a wide area for them to go and a 4” pipe they tend to clog up the opening and you have to stop and clean them out.

Also, my first table top had slots for the fence to slide back and forth in. The second time I used short pieces of T-track. Both work but I like the track much better. I’ve also installed a smaller vacuum port in the lower router area. I’ve had up to 5 gallons of shavings before with way to few passes to justify that much shavings.

Here you can see both the T-track and the fence with the older small port for dust collection.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4769 days

#10 posted 01-11-2010 08:17 PM

Thanks Daniel. I’m going to get a raised panel set when I have a project that justifies that expense – probably after we buy our house and do the kitchen cabinetry (not anytime soon).

as for the fence – the plan is to have an Incra type fence positioner which will be bolted to the back of the table top. for now I’m just going to clamp down my incra-jig with a sub ply base. as for the actual fence. I’m still undecided, but for now will probably just have a simple fence to get me going. I’ll keep your points in mind as DC is highly important as is jointing capabilities (not necessarily for jointing, but for edge treatment), and zero clearance on the fence.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 4407 days

#11 posted 01-11-2010 10:00 PM

Lookin good! Nice job on the blog too. A lot of helpful information.



View Karson's profile


35276 posts in 5521 days

#12 posted 01-12-2010 04:41 PM

Sharon: A nice looking job on the insert When I bought my first insert that also had available an MDF pattern that you could buy. I bought it and it sure made life easy.

Getting the accurate pattern is the hardest part.

Nice job.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View ajosephg's profile


1897 posts in 4681 days

#13 posted 01-12-2010 04:55 PM

I like the idea of cutting the template corners 5 degrees off.

Re: reaching under to turn router on/off. I bought a “remote” switch from Rockler with a big old stop button on it so as to fix that problem.

-- Joe

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4769 days

#14 posted 01-12-2010 05:07 PM

Thanks guys.

Karson – I heard mixed reviews of the available templates. some say that the fit was too loose. also I’m not doing this for a living, and have to be very mindful of expenses, so I figured I’ll make the template from scrap that I had = less expenses, better fit, and I get to clean up the scrap pile. win-win-win situation.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4769 days

#15 posted 01-12-2010 05:09 PM

Thanks Joe – in the long run I’ll probably get some remote on/off button. right now I’m just trying to get this station operational with minimal expenses. but leaving room for improvement in the future.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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